Prednisone For Rheumatoid Arthritis And Its Effects On Life Insurance

Written by Heidi Mertlich

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a chronic inflammatory condition. Fairly common with approximately 200,000 new cases each year, RA is considered an autoimmune disorder because your own body gets confused and attacks itself by mistake.

Unlike osteoarthritis, which is considered the regular wear and tear on joints as we age, it can be more serious.

RA is associated with bone erosion, joint deformity, and organ damage. Because it is a progressive condition, the complications of RA tend to occur overtime.

Sounds a little scary, right?

Here’s the good news: there’s never been a better time to manage rheumatoid arthritis. Over the last decade, tremendous progress has been made in understanding it and how to treat it.

Coupled with a healthy lifestyle (self-treatment), medical treatments can drastically improve your experience with RA.

While managing rheumatoid arthritis won’t cure it, early intervention can control symptoms, halt joint and tissue damage, and improve your overall quality of life. Its treatment plans usually include antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) combined with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and low dose steroids.

Today, doctors understand that there are several conditions that may present themselves in RA patients.

Patients who work closely with their rheumatologist can have these potential complications addressed early on, and pursue appropriate treatments to prevent symptoms from worsening. – Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network (RASN)

Understanding Prednisone’s Effect On Life Insurance

Life insurance companies manage a balancing act of absorbing risks and charging premiums (payments you make for insurance) for those risks.

Their process for assessing risk involves a rather detailed medical exam and interview.

Known as underwriting, this practice allows life insurance companies to gauge a number of factors to determine the level of liability a particular client poses.

Underwriting will include recording information on:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Height/Weight
  • Blood/Urine samples
  • Blood pressure
  • Family medical history
  • Personal medical history
  • Medications (i.e. prednisone)
  • Lifestyle
  • Occupation

In general, medications for RA, or any medical condition for that matter, are a double-edged sword when it comes to life insurance.

They are efficient in treating symptoms.

However, your eligibility and premiums are negatively impacted if you are on medication. It’s not that medication in and of itself is considered bad by insurance companies.

Rather, there are side effects to medications that are considered a risk.

Let’s discuss prednisone, a corticosteroid often used to treat inflammation and autoimmune conditions.

Corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, reduce inflammation and pain and slow joint damage.

Doctors often prescribe a corticosteroid to relieve acute symptoms, with the goal of gradually tapering off the medication.  – Mayo Clinic

Prednisone is very successful in RA treatment, and is often used temporarily during flareups. Steroids, like prednisone, act similar to hormones in the body. People with RA who are experiencing extra-articular symptoms, are more likely to be receiving higher prednisone doses, which can be as high as 60 mg/day.

If your rheumatologist says you may be able to stop taking prednisone for rheumatoid arthritis or cut your dosage, don’t be tempted to speed up the recommended weaning process. It works to suppress the body’s immune system by reducing the activity of inflammatory substances in the body.

There’s also proof that low-dose prednisone may slow the progression of joint damage and stop the immune system from attacking healthy tissues. That’s the good news.

Taking prednisone can dramatically weaken your bones, leading to osteoporosis, may cause cravings that cause weight gain, and can increase your risk of infections.

Side effects of prednisone range from gastrointestinal upset (diarrhea, stomach pain) and neurologic/psychiatric (mood swings, insomnia) to ophthalmic (blurred vision, cataracts) and endocrine (diabetes, hyperglycemia.)

Taking prednisone can dramatically weaken your bones, leading to osteoporosis, may cause cravings that cause weight gain, and can increase your risk of infections.

Unfortunately, prednisone also has risky side effects:

  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Swelling in legs and arms
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Diabetes
  • Thinning of bones

Insurance companies will look closely at prednisone use because of the concerning side effects. Think risk.

Remember, insurance companies decide whether or not they will absorb risk and charge a premium for that risk. Specifically, they will want to know:

  1. When were you prescribed prednisone?
  2. Are you currently taking prednisone?
  3. How often do you take prednisone?
  4. When was your last rheumatologist appointment and what were the recommendations?

Each individual’s case is unique. However, taking prednisone will make securing traditional, fully-underwritten life insurance more difficult. It’s still possible. But, your approval could be rated.

A rated approval means you still qualify for fully-underwritten life insurance. However, a surcharge will be added to your premiums, somewhere between 25-200%.

Ideally, your prednisone use would be limited and temporary.

Health Improvement Beyond Medications

Let’s look beyond rheumatoid arthritis medications, like prednisone, for a moment. A healthy lifestyle for RA is crucial.

Many people living with rheumatoid arthritis are able to live fully-functioning, active lifestyles. Flareups happen less often.

Your chances of securing affordable life insurance increase when you are living a healthy lifestyle.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many self-treatment measures you can do at home:

  1. Exercise. Regular exercise strengthens joints and muscles. It’s associated with better sleep, improved memory and increased happiness. Low-impact exercise is best for RA, such as swimming, walking and yoga.
  2. Heat and cold application. Heat can relax tense muscles and reduce pain. Cold can decrease the sensation of pain and lessen muscle spasms.
  3. Relaxation. Yoga, guided relaxation, and stretching help relax the body. Additionally, securing a strong support network provides emotional support and lowers stress levels.
  4. Healthy diet. Anti-inflammatory food and plenty of green vegetables are important. Think wild-caught salmon, blueberries, and leafy greens. Kale chips, anyone?

Take Action

If you’re shopping for life insurance and are taking prednisone, it’s essential that you speak to a knowledgable independent life insurance agent.

Obtaining life insurance is more difficult if you take a steroid for rheumatoid arthritis, or another medical condition. You will want an agent representing you who understands the complexities of your medical situation.

While corticosteroids are a steroid hormone, rest assured that they’re not the same as anabolic steroids. This Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced naturally by our body’s adrenal glands that has many functions, including anti-inflammatory effects.

Don’t feel hopeless. Options are always available for you to secure financial peace of mind for you family. Consider the following three scenarios:

  1. Traditional, fully underwritten life insurance. You complete a paramedical exam and are approved. Best case scenario.
  2. If you have been declined traditional life insurance previously, it’s best to revisit your options. We have helped clients receive an approval after a prior decline because we’re experts at best presenting a complicated life insurance application. This can be the difference between a decline and an approval.
  3. Due to your medical status, traditional, fully underwritten life insurance isn’t available to you. Don’t despair. A guaranteed issue life policy is an option that does not require a medical exam. More expensive, it should only be considered if you don’t qualify for traditional life insurance.

The number one reason people purchase life insurance is because they love someone and want to make sure they’d be protected financially if something happened to them. – Life Happens, a nonprofit life insurance awareness organization

Life insurance may be one of the most important purchases you make.

We don’t want to sound dark, but no one is guaranteed tomorrow. Start here to find out which life insurance policy is the best option for you and your family.

About Rheumatoid Arthritis Life Insurance
About Rheumatoid Arthritis Life Insurance

We work with individuals across the nation to secure the best life insurance rates.

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